MY NAME IS SANGOEL has won the Carolyn W. Field honor award given by the Pennsylvania Library Association for 2010. The announcement will be made at the PaLA conference in Lancaster, PA on MOnday October 25.
Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock,
Sangoel has only his mother, younger sister, the clothes on his back and a mysterious package thrust into his hands by a friend as he leaves the refugee camp. He must start over in a brand new place, America. And in this place, the “wise one” reassures him, “you will be Sangoel.” Sangoel is proud of his Dinka name, the name of his father (who was killed in the war) and of his grandfather before him. He takes comfort knowing he will always be a Dinka and will always be Sangoel despite everything that may change.
A kind woman meets them at the airport and helps them get settled in their new apartment. She brings clothes, teaches Sangoel’s mother to cook on the stove, shows Sangoel and his sister how television works and how to cross the street, but she cannot pronounce his name. Neither can the doctor, his teacher or any of the children at school.
Sangoel’s mother suggests he choose a new, American name, but Sangoel can’t imagine such a thing. Eventually he comes up with a brilliant idea for teaching others how to pronounce his name and begins to settle into his new life while still preserving his cherished Dinka identity.
This lovely book, a second collaboration following on from Four Feet Two Sandals between Karen Lynn Williams, author of Galimoto, Tap-Tap and Circles of Hope, and Khadra Mohammed, executive director of the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Refugee Center, is illustrated in warm watercolors by Catherine Stock. It imparts the emotional challenges of the refugee experience without dragging young readers too deeply through the horrors of war. It illustrates that even those fortunate enough to be resettled must deal with their difficult pasts while navigating a new present and trying to maintain a sense of themselves as whole individuals. Children will be impressed with Sangoel’s story and ingenuity. It is clear that the family will not have an easy life, but with resilience and resourcefulness they will overcome their challenges.